The English Lesson

Jenya Kulakova
Facebook
November 18, 2021

A trifle, but an unpleasant one all the same.

According to the Russian Penal Code, convicted foreign nationals have the right to communicate with prison wardens in any language they speak and receive a response in that language. Vitya [Viktor Filinkov], as you know, is a citizen of Kazakhstan. In response to the razor blades planted [and “found”] by prison officials in his cell on his birthday, he wrote a statement in English.

And what do you think happened? The penal colony found an English teacher, Nadezhda Ivanovna Zhavikova, who works at Night School No. 13. in Orenburg, who “checked” Vitya’s composition and “corrected” the “mistakes” in it so that the text would better suit the wardens. The only thing she didn’t do, unfortunately, was grade the composition. But the prison staff probably gave her an A.

Vitya writes, “Before I started, current inspector had said that I should REPLACE my prison uniform. I DECLINED but he took it and gave me new one.”

The meaning is clear. What does Nadezhda Ivanovna write in [her] translation?

“Before that, the duty inspector told me to PUT my clothes in ORDER. I SUGGESTED that he take it away and give me a new one in return.”

At issue here is the tunic that was replaced against Vitya’s will before he went to the baths. After he came back, prison officials “found” a shard of a blade in the seam of the tunic. It thus transpires that it was Vitya who asked for it to be replaced.

Vitya ends his statement with an appreciation of the production staged by the Correctional Colony No. 1 troupe: “I didn’t brake the razor, it’s a play. Good scenario, actors. Good game, well played.”

Nadezhda Ivanovna feigns that she didn’t understand what was at issue, and translates [the passage] as if Vitya was bragging about his own play-acting: “I didn’t break the razor, it’s a game. A good acting script. A good performance, well ACTED [by Vitya, apparently [because the verb is the singular in Russian, not the plural —TRR]].”

Maybe, of course, the teacher didn’t do it out of spite, but simply couldn’t make sense [of Filinkov’s statement]. But somehow it seems to me that she made perfect sense of it and even made it over [to satisfy the wardens].

UPDATE. On a more practical note, if you have a translator’s diploma and would like to write a specialist’s opinion for the upcoming hearing appealing Vitya’s transfer to a single-cell facility for a month, you’re welcome!

Team Navalny
Instagram
November 15, 2021

❗️ Viktor Filinkov and the torture colony

Viktor is a political prisoner in the Network case. The case is about a “terrorist community” of young men who were fond of airsoft and openly voiced opposition to Putin.

The FSB took these two facts and cooked up charges that got the defendants sent to prison for terms from six to eighteen years. Allegedly, the young men were divided into combat groups that were supposed to organize bombings in order to “sway the masses for further destabilization of the political situation in the country.”

The defendants claim that they were tortured into confessing, and that the evidence in the case was completely manufactured by the security forces.

The verdicts were announced in February 2020. But the matter did not end when the young men were sent to penal colonies: the authorities began bullying them there. We know the most about their treatment of Viktor Filinkov.

For the slightest offense — such as “didn’t say hello ten times a day to a prison employee,” “washed ten minutes earlier than he was supposed to,” “left his work station during work (he went to the work station next to his to ask how to use the machine because he hadn’t been properly instructed)” —  Viktor is sent to a punitive detention cell. Letters from [Viktor’s] friends and relatives are opened, shown to other prisoners, and even replies to them are forged.

Things are so over the top that when there was a scabies outbreak in [Viktor’s] cell, his cellmates were given ointment, but Viktor himself was not, because “he complained.”

Now Viktor is being transferred to Correctional Colony No. 5 in Novotroitsk, to an isolated solitary cell, for repeatedly violating those supremely absurd rules. This colony is a torture colony, one of the most violent in Russia. In June, twelve inmates there engaged in a “collective act of self-mutilation” to protest the torture.

The Putin regime is a regime of vengeful scum. No one is safe from their lawlessness. This nightmare will become more and more commonplace with every passing day. Don’t let that happen.

More information about how Victor is being bullied can be found in the article linked to in stories.

Release political prisoners!

Translated by the Russian Reader

Yevgeniy Fiks: The Wayland Rudd Collection

Join us for the Book Launch and Panel Discussion for
The Wayland Rudd Collection by Yevgeniy Fiks
6 PM ET, Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Wayland Rudd Collection book cover. Image courtesy of Ugly Duckling Presse

This event will be held via Zoom. To register for this event go here.

How can the complicated intersection of race and Communist internationalism be engaged through cultural materials from the cold war period? Artist Yevgeniy Fiks has compiled The Wayland Rudd Collection archive of Soviet media images of Africans and African Americans—from propaganda posters to postage stamps—mainly related to African liberation movements and civil rights struggles. In this new publication, meditations, reflections, and research-based essays by scholars, poets, and artists address the complicated intersection of race and Communist internationalism, with particular focus on the Soviet Union’s critique of systemic racism in the US.

The project is named after Wayland Rudd (1900-1952), a Black American actor who moved to the Soviet Union in 1932 and appeared in many Soviet films and theatrical performances. The stories of Rudd and other expat African Americans in the Soviet Union are given special attention in the book.

Bringing together post-colonial and post-Soviet perspectives, the book maps the complicated and often contradictory intersection of race and Communism in the Soviet context, exposing the interweaving of internationalism, solidarity, humanism, and Communist ideals with practices of othering and exoticization.

Please join moderator Jennifer Wilson and panelists Christina Kiaer, Christopher Stackhouse, Denise Milstein, Dread Scott, and Yevgeniy Fiks for a dynamic investigation of these materials and their implications today.

For more information and to purchase the book click here.

This event is organized by The James Gallery and Ugly Duckling Presse.

Courage

COURAGE
In the course of the presidential elections in Belarus in the summer of 2020, three actors from an underground theatre, Belarus Free Theatre in Minsk, get caught up in the maelstrom of mass protests. They are drawn to the wide streets of Minsk to protest vociferously for freedom of speech and the long-awaited change of power. But the people‘s voice is brutally crushed by the regime‘s security apparatus. Members of the theatre group and many other people get arrested. The country is on the brink of civil war. COURAGE accompanies the courageous and peaceful resistance of Maryna, Pavel and Denis before and during the protests. The film takes a very personal look at the events and thus provides a close and gripping insight into the lives of people in today‘s Belarus who are fighting for their freedom and the right to democracy.

Director: Aliaksei Paluyan
Producer: Jörn Möllenkamp
Writer: Aliaksei Paluyan
Cast: Maryna Yakubovich, Pavel Haradnizky, Denis Tarasenka

Running through Thursday, November 18, at Laemmle Glendale in Glendale, California. Thanks to Sasha Razor for the heads-up. ||| TRR

Subtle Forms of Utter Hogwash

Dostoevsky and the Russian Soul

Rowan Williams’ fascination with Russia began when, as a boy, he watched Sergei Eisenstein’s Ivan the Terrible on television. After that he became a born again Russophile, learned the language, and even completed a doctorate on Russian Christianity. But no Russian figure has held his fascination more than Fyodor Dostoevsky.

Dostoevsky is still considered among the greatest novelists the world has ever produced. But his talent for writing complex, often contradictory characters is rooted in a single traumatic moment when, as a young man, he found himself before a firing squad. The event changed his life, his writing, and his views on Russia’s place in the world.

Now that tensions between Russia and the West are once again running high, Rowan considers what the author’s life and thought can tell us about the country today.

Ultimately, Rowan finds, what makes Dostoevsky such a wonderful novelist is his humanity. At a time of deep divides, this is a writer with something to offer us all.

Source: BBC Radio 4

Source: Twitter.com

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Source: Subscribe.Ru “News” mailing list for 15 November 2021. Archival photo of a car crash at a summer beer garden on Pushkinskaya Street in Petersburg [circa 2003] by the Russian Reader. Translated by the Russian Reader

The Post-Soviet Imaginary

“Tashkent 1930,” reads the caption in the original posting of this photo on Facebook. The girls are wearing shirts bearing the (Latin) abbreviation “UzSSR” (Uzbekistan Soviet Socialist Republic). The cotton boll emblem on their shirts suggests they might be headed for the cotton fields as “voluntary” pickers, an abusive practice that is still common there. Thanks to Sergey Abashin for the heads-up.
Anatoly Belkin, “Persimmon Vendor,” Imperial Porcelain Factory. Posted on Facebook by Andrei Yerokhin. Thanks to Sergei Damberg for the heads-up. Despite this figurine’s “old timey” (Soviet) appearance, underscored by the “Ovoshchprodtorg No. 17” (“Vegetable Retail Organization No. 17”) logo  on the stand, a commenter claims the work is by a modern artist.

Five Years in Prison for Belarusian Anarchist Blogger Mikola Dziadok

The Regime Sentences Anarchist and Blogger Mikola Dziadok
Pramen
November 10, 2021

Today, the last hearing in the trial of Mikola Dziadok took place. He was found guilty on all charges and sent to a medium-security penal colony for 5 years. The sentence was fully consistent with what the prosecutor requested.

Last year, the anarchist was targeted by the GUBOPiK for his numerous publications about this organization of pro-Lukashenko activists. From July 2020 until his arrest in November 2020, Mikola was in hiding: the repressive apparatus searched for him for almost five months with all the forces at its disposal.

When he was arrested, Dziadok was tortured to gain access to encrypted data on his computer. In many ways, the torture itself was the revenge of the security services on the blogger and anarchist activist for his political work.

This trial has once again shown that the Lukashenko regime is afraid not only of physical confrontation on the streets, but also of confrontation in the information realm. After all, in 2020 it was words that Mikola used to fight the dictatorship in our country. Moreover, he did not leave the country, as other bloggers did, but stayed.

We hope that Mikola, like all the other prisoners of the revolution, will not have to wait long for freedom, and very soon we will meet them on the outside!

Thanks to Antti Rautiainen for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

Disappeared: Abror Azimov

Abror Azimov. Photo courtesy of The Insider

Abror Azimov, sentenced to life in prison for Petersburg subway bombing, disappears during transfer: there has been no news of him for a month
The Insider
November 2, 2021

Abror Azimov, sentenced to life imprisonment in the case of the Petersburg subway bombing, has disappeared on his way to a penal colony. The convicted man’s father Ahral Azimov has told The Insider that nothing has been known about his whereabouts for over a month.

In mid-September, Abror Azimov was allegedly transferred from the Crosses pre-trial detention center in Petersburg. By verdict of the court, he was to be delivered to a high-security penal colony. The other defendants in the case have already been taken to various penitentiary facilities, including Abror’s brother Akram Azimov.

The last time Abror Azimov telephoned his parents was on September 14 from the Crosses. He said then that all the other defendants in the case had been transferred, and suggested that he would probably be transferred soon, too, the convict’s father said.

According to Petersburg philologist Elena Efros, who has been corresponding with Azimov, the last letter she received from him was from the Butyrka pre-trial detention center in Moscow on September 29, the day he was sent to the next transit prison. “There he writes that he would let me or his father know as soon as he arrived, but so far we’ve heard nothing,” Efros said.

Abror’s father sent several appeals to the authorities asking them to inform him which colony his son was sent to. On October 26, a response came from the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service office for St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region, in which they claim that the wardens at Pre-Trial Detention Center No. 1 (The Crosses) had sent a letter to the convicted man’s father informing him about the place where his son was serving his sentence. Ahral Azimov says he has not received any letter. In this regard, he submitted an appeal to the prosecutor’s office, requesting they conduct an inquiry.

Abror Azimov’s lawyer Jargalma Dorzhiyeva told The Insider that she also has no information about his whereabouts. “I have no information about where Azimov is. Currently, I only have his consent to file a cassation appeal,” the lawyer said.

In December 2019, Azimov was sentenced to life in prison. His brother Akram Azimov and another defendant in the case, Muhamadusup Ermatov, were sentenced to 28 years in a maximum-security penal colony. Eight more defendants were sentenced to prison term of up to 19 years. All of them denied any wrongdoing, and four of them, including Abror and Akram Azimov, reported that they had been brutally tortured.

The blast on the line between the subway stations Sennaya Ploshchad and Tekhnologicheskii Institut occurred on 3 April  2017. Sixteen people were killed and fifty more were [hospitalized].

Abror Azimov reported that he and Akram were abducted and tortured in a secret FSB prison in the Moscow Region before their official detention. During the trial, he testified that he had been tortured into confessing to organizing the terrorist attack. The other defendants in the case have also repeatedly stated that they had nothing to do with the terrorist attack. All of them had come to Russia at different times to earn money: they worked on construction sites, in cafes and as taxi divers. At one of the first hearings in the trial, they pressed sheets of paper against the glass of the cage on which they had written “We were framed,” “We are not guilty,” and “You will see that there is nothing on us.”

Read more about this case in The Insider article “‘My brother’s screams were audible from the next cell’: torture, secret FSB prisons and falsification of evidence in the case of the terrorist attack in the Petersburg subway.”

Translated by the Russian Reader. Please read my previous posts on the presumed terrorist attack in the Petersburg subway, the case against its alleged “financiers and planners,” its roots in the Islamophobia that has infected Russia under Putin, and the shocking lack of local and international solidarity with the eleven Central Asian migrant workers scapegoated and convicted in the case.

“They were right to shoot people”

Natalia Vvedenskaya
Facebook
November 12, 2021

In the early 2000s, our computer broke down. There were few computer repairmen back then, and a passing acquaintance suggested her husband for the job. The young man came over and quickly fixed everything. Over tea it transpired that he worked at the FSB.

This was still amazing then, so we naively asked him how he could work in such a place, for the heirs of criminals and all that. And this twenty-five-year-old man literally said, “They were right to shoot people. They just should have done it more quietly.”

Now the whole country from top to bottom is run by people from the FSB. Of course, they want to ban Memorial. What need is there to remember if it was “right” to shoot people? What need is there to defend human rights if it is “right” to imprison people now?

The liquidation of Memorial is just the final whistle: the boat is leaving the dock. We’ll still put up a bit of a fight, of course. What else can we do?  But all the same.

___________

The acquaintance soon divorced the man because he had begun beating their child.

____________

The document, above, is from the family archive. Roman Troshchenko, a priest, worked as a physician’s assistant in an orphanage after serving time in the camps. He was shot, allegedly, for “spreading rumors among the children and the populace that the Soviet regime would fall and the fascists would come to power.”

Translated by the Russian Reader

The Gun Club

Your guide will meet you at your hotel and bring you either by metro or onboard a classic Soviet military van (option) to our shooting range. There, you will learn to master 3 iconic Soviet weapons, under supervision of a professional trainer. Discover the thrill of shooting military grade weapons loaded with live bullets! We bring at your trigger finger: 1) The Yarygin Pistol – Standard Russian military sidearm. Caliber 9mm 2) The Kalashnikov AK-47 – Legendary Russian assault rifle, will surely shake your foundations. Caliber 7.62×39 3) The Dragunov sniper rifle – Iconic Russian sniper, in service for more than 50 years! The Dragunov is a semi-automatic rifle with massive power! Get your adrenaline shot firing its 7.62×54 rounds!

Source: Trip Advisor

November 11, 2021

Imagine there’s an aggressive, martial society that sends its soldiers around the world, intervening here and there, undermining all global democratic institutions and norms for arbitrating conflict, reserving for itself the sole right to decide which governments are legitimate, and defending the wealth of a small handful of nations—its own especially—against the interests of the vast majority.

Imagine further that the government of this nation, which so carelessly throws its soldiers into wars of choice in the pursuit of political and economic power, creates a propaganda campaign to convince the public that it is their civic duty to gush and fawn over veterans, to thank them for their “service,” to honor their “sacrifices,” and to never question the purpose of their missions, because to do so would disrespect the lives squandered in the pursuit of such noble goals.

Now imagine there’s a holiday, exclusively reserved for celebrating all of this propaganda.

What an impressive system that would be, completely impenetrable from outside critique. Global aggression masked as a noble mission, brutal violence reframed as a necessary means to an honorable end. War after war, foreign nations ravaged, one after another, and the public can only wince at the same time it thanks its veterans for their service.

What’s more impressive is that it’s a system that perpetuates itself. Through the celebration of warrior holidays, everyone practices their roles and each new generation finds their place in the pageantry. Civilians’ relationship to the military is basically one of cheerleadership. Soldiers are forever trapped as the sacrificial lambs of their society, sent to die for the wealth and power of their leaders (but everyone is taught to call it “defense”). And those who survive are celebrated as the sacred symbol of the nation itself, who civilians must praise and who children learn to revere.

So, if you’ve followed me through the allegory, obviously this is crazy and this can’t continue to go on like this.